Great Little Trading Company – Cavendish Kitchen: A Review

DSC_0906At some point around the time that your child turns 2 or 3 you will find yourself shopping for a toy kitchen. The draw of play kitchens is not to be underestimated and both my children have spent many a happy hour playing with them.

It’s a question often asked on the Mumsnet forums - which play kitchen is the best? Well, to help you narrow down the choice, here’s my review of the latest offering from the Great Little Trading Company – the Cavendish Play Kitchen.

Beautifully designed, it comes in a pleasing American Diner style colour palette of red and blue. It’s counterpart, the Portobello comes in pale pink, should you be of the mindset that your child must have things in pink.

DSC_0908First things first. This is a flat pack product which comes in a smallish box, with the pieces wrapped carefully in bubblewrap.  The instructions are printed on one sheet of paper and of the diagram variety.


By virtue of living close to an Ikea, as you can imagine, I am quite the expert at flat pack construction and so I set to with gusto.  The kit comes with an Allen key but you will also need a small Philips screwdriver.

DSC_0910All went well until I reached the kitchen shelf, whose pre-drilled holes were just out. Matters were resolved by use of a drill and two new holes were created, though no doubt had I asked, I could have had a new shelf shipped out to me to replace it. Shelf issues aside, the instructions were clear, but execution fiddly. You will need two people, one to hold the pieces and the other to wield the screwdriver.


As you can see from the pictures, this is a very attractive play kitchen. Once put together it is sturdy and stable; the door works easily, and the knobs turn with a pleasing clicking noise.  My son was immediately drawn to the clock, salt and pepper rack and the utensil hooks and he spent some time exploring those before he even realised there was an oven and dials to investigate.  The kitchen comes with salt and pepper pots with removable lids and three wooden kitchen utensils.  You can also purchase a number of very attractive looking saucepan sets from Great Little Trading Co to go with it, which mix and match.

DSC_0977 Also known as  ‘destructo-boy’ or ‘Bam-Bam’, my son will find a weakness in any toy almost immediately. I’m happy to report nothing has been broken or pulled off, and believe me, he has tried.  Further trials have revealed that the kitchen sink is removable and also doubles as a hat and casserole dish.

DSC_0979Another bonus to this kitchen, compared to others I have experience of, is how light it is. I can pick it up and move it to another room with ease, no help required.  Given my son likes to be in whichever room I’m in, being able to move his favourite toy is useful.  It’s just the right size for a toddler, big enough, with enough features to be interesting and not so big that it dominates a room. The very fact that it is such a lovely design and colour is a bonus in itself, meaning I am not silently resenting it taking up space in my house. The finish is good, with no rough edges and the paintwork is pristine. There are no flimsy or easily breakable parts at all.


Sink bowl being utilised as a casserole dish in the oven

If you wanted a bigger kitchen with more features, perhaps for a slightly older child then there are several other models available.  You could try the Superstar Play Kitchen featuring microwave and washing machine or the Superchef Kitchen with fridge freezer.

This kitchen is priced at £95 with free delivery and can be ordered through the Great Little Trading Company website. The perfect gift for a toddler, this kitchen is good value for money, and likely to be played with for some time to come.

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Little St John’s ‘Outstanding’

Outstanding 3

Pictured L-R: Miss Alison Flower, Reception Teacher with Mrs Claire Davies, Head of Pre Prep and children from the Nursery and Reception Class

Little St John’s, the Early Years Department of St John’s College in Southsea is celebrating after receiving an ‘outstanding’ inspection report from the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI) – just one month after the new setting opened.  A co-educational day and boarding school, for ages 2-18 (boarding from Year 5), Little St John’s is located in the heart of Southsea and celebrated its centenary in 2008.

The team of inspectors visited for three days during October and graded the provision for boys and girls aged 2 – 5 as ‘outstanding’ in every category.  The Early Years Department was judged on its leadership and management; how the provision meets the needs of the children; the contribution of the provision to the children’s well-being, and the overall quality and standards of the early years provision.

The report acknowledges the high-quality teaching in both the Nursery and Reception classes alongside ‘expert assessment’ that ensures all children make ‘excellent progress’.  The behaviour of the children is also described as ‘excellent’ as it their ‘outstanding personal and emotional development’ which enables ‘highly effective learning’.  Early years staff were commended for their outstanding contribution to children’s well-being.

You can read the report using this link.

Mr Tony Shrubsall, Head of the Junior School, comments. ” I am delighted with the report – which recognises how we strive to ensure positive relations with our colleagues, parents and children.  I am extremely proud of the children and their teachers. Everybody works so hard here at St John’s College and it is clear that the very high standards we seek are acheieved on a daily basis.”  He continues, “Moving the Nursery into the School has evidently helped improve our provision.  As well as a brand new nursery setting, we had the opportunity to improve access to College facilities; increase security, and we have introduced open plan rooms to help prepare our children for the classroom environment ready for when they progress to our Reception Class”.

Affectionately renamed ‘Little St John’s’ the Nursery and Reception Classes moved location over the summer and re-opened in September.  Complete with new fixtures and fittings, the facility offers enhanced outdoor areas and extended learning opportunities for children aged 2 to 5. To find our more about the school, visit their website.

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Victorian Festival of Christmas: A Review

Last weekend, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard transformed its streets into a Victorian town complete with Fagin’s Tavern and street urchins.  This year’s event was bigger than ever before with the addition of an outdoor cinema and screenings of Frozen with live performers as characters from the film encouraging audiences to sing a long.


Having been invited along to see for myself, I stepped through the gate to be confronted with a mulled wine stall (don’t mind if I do) and a group of chimney sweeps stepping in time. Wherever I looked there were Victorian characters from soldiers to wenches and paupers to suffragettes.  Amongst the shop fronts and stalls were signs for Reindeer and the Frozen sing a long and straight ahead of us stood the beautiful carousel replete with carriages and cantering horses.


Swept along with the chimney sweeps, we followed them through to the Victorian funfair with ferris wheel and helter skelter,  past circus performers, taking us into parts of the Dockyard which are not normally open to the public. Following the road around took us to the indoor market packed with stalls offering unique and boutique gifts, and further still to the outdoor cinema between two buildings.


Although I had tickets for the Frozen screening, due to a combination of a toddler meltdown and my daughter’s sudden inexplicable insistence that she didn’t like Frozen any more, we didn’t make it (which was disappointing for me, as I was really looking forward to it), but as you can see plenty did and all seemed to be having a fantastic time, with the fancy dress competition proving to be very popular. With plenty of seating and three screenings a day meaning it didn’t get too busy or crowded, this was a definite winner.


The Outdoor Cinema

Beyond the cinema we were confronted by the sight of snow falling, and a charming snow covered tree scene complete with Snowmen. A  roast chestnut stall and another street of stalls including Lush toiletries and cosmetics, artisan fudge and cheese marked Richside.  There, we spotted the cast of Cinderella, Groundlings Theatre’s pantomime production for 2014. Small stages and performance areas were spread around the site, with local dance and drama troupes such as The Young Creatives providing live entertainment at regular intervals. If the snow scene wasn’t festive enough, we were soon transported with the arrival of  Victorian characters singing carols.


The star of the show however, for my son at least, was the miniature steam train and track running alongside the National Museum of the Royal Navy, offering rides for just 50 pence.  Further down we popped into the Cabin Room in the Victory Gallery to let the children warm up slightly and found all kinds of snowy themed sensory play and a number of babies and toddlers happily engaged in trying to catch bubbles. For older children there were colouring materials and in the National Museum, a Victorian School Room.


On leaving the Gallery we were treated to the sound of bagpipes and a marching band competing with the live music competing from Fagin’s Tavern. A display of steam engines and Victorian caravans were located in front of HMS Victory along with a charming miniature carousel and more children’s rides were located outside the Mary Rose Museum. Rides varied in price from the very manageable with a smile 50 pence for the train to the slightly more smile through gritted teeth (especially  if you have more than one child) £2.50. If you wanted to avoid all those pay per rides though, there were the usual interactive exhibits and lots of extra activities put on by the museums and attractions, as well as live performances throughout the day.



For the hungry, there were all kinds of treats on offer from baked goods provided by local bakeries, carvery, bubble and squeak, sausages, pasties,  tempura prawns, fresh doughnuts, as well as the many cafes and restaurants already on site. Prices were average for this kind of event, with pasties priced around £3.80 upwards for example.


No review for Mumsnet would be complete without mention of the toilets and baby changing, and there are plenty of these immaculate facilities dotted around the dockyard. Extra toilets were provided, meaning there were no queues, an attention to detail which was much appreciated – very important when you have a toddler with you! One small piece of advice – if you can leave the pushchair at home, then do so.  Although easy underfoot and there are lifts in the museums, it was very busy and the pushchair made it difficult to get to stalls.  You can’t take a pushchair on either HMS Warrior or HMS Victory, and though there are pushchair parks outside both HMS Warrior and HMS Victory, there isn’t anything to lock your pushchair to, and that might well be a nice addition for peace of mind bearing in mind the cost of modern travel systems and pushchairs.

Being local, we hold dockyard passes and so the usual attractions were not the draw for us, which put added pressure on the rest of the event to be exciting for us and for the children. I had a two year old and a six year old with me, both tough critics in their respective ways.  The cabin room is always a hit with both children, as were the additional activities in the museums and these offered us all a chance to warm up after walking through the market. Particular magic moments were provided by ladies on stilts dressed as bells, and scenes from Mary Poppins, for which my children stood stock still, rapt. The rides were less of a hit, which due to cost, were not as frequent as they would have liked, with the exception of the miniature train which, which both children loved and we didn’t mind paying for. If you have never been to the Dockyard before, then the tickets are fantastic value for money as you have entry to all the museums, both HMS Warrior, HMS Victory and you can go on a harbour tour as well as all the extra entertainment, the market and the open air cinema.


The one person we absolutely wanted to see however, proved to be extremely elusive, until suddenly we spotted him as we were leaving, Father Christmas himself – and what a Father Christmas! Dressed in Victorian green wearing a crown of seasonal greenery, he was everything he should be.  Except red, as my  6 year old pointed out. Coca-Cola, you have much to answer for.


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The Hampshire Santa Special

Local Editor:

Here’s a list of Hampshire Father Christmas/Santa Claus experiences and grottos that I put together for the Mumsnet Hampshire Blog. It covers the whole county including Portsmouth and Southampton.

Originally posted on Mumsnet Local Hampshire:

MN Santa SleighI’ve put together a list of great places to go to meet Father Christmas or Santa Claus in Hampshire. Some need booking in advance, others are first come first served, some can be booked on arrival so do check the details ahead of your trip.

The pricing structure and opening dates for some of these is very detailed so I’ve left the pricing and specific dates off and you’ll need to click the highlighted words for more details. This list is by no means exhaustive and I might add to it as I find more great grottos and experiences!

Andover Garden Centre, Andover – Visit a traditional Santa’s Grotto.  Booking necessary, available from the 5th December 2014, check website for dates.

Andover Garden Centre, Andover – Eat breakfast or  tea with Father Christmas, decorate  cookie and receive a gift.  Teas available from the 5th December, breakfasts from the 6th, booking necessary.


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Portsmouth Weekend Highlights 15th/16th November

With the Southsea Christmas lights now on, this weekend really marks the start of the festive season and all manner of Christmassy events will commence.

frozen keydellsFor those avidly looking forward to the arrival of Santa, he will be arriving at Keydell Nurseries this Saturday in his usual horse drawn carriage style (around 11 am) and you can visit him in his grotto at the garden centre for £10.50 per child on a first come first served basis – it’s not possible to pre-book, you can only purchase the tickets on the day.  If you want to pre-book at Keydells you can however purchase tickets in advance for the Santa’s Elves Party with Frozen Characters which is available for £19.99 a ticket and includes a cold picnic tea, party, visit with Santa and choice of unwrapped gift. The parties take place on the 3rd, 4th, 10th, 11th 17th and 18th December from 5 pm.

If you’re looking for some gifts then there’s plenty of places to try this weekend:

The St Philips Church (Cosham) Christmas Fayre takes place this Saturday from 12 noon to 3pm and you can also visit Santa there (well, he is magic and he can be in several places at once).  St James Church in Milton also have their Christmas Fayre from 10.30 am on Saturday. St Cuthberts Church in Lichfield Road will also be holding a Fayre this Saturday from 10 am with plenty of stalls and refreshments.

aspexAspex Gallery will be holding a Contemporary Makers Fayre this weekend from 11 am – 4 pm each day, where you will find specially selected stall holders showcasing jewellery, ceramics, print making and glassware.  There will be unique gifts and stocking fillers on offer and creative workshops and tasty specials in the café.

Port Solent Sunday Market takes place this weekend as does Crafts in the Tower at the Square Tower both from 11 am.

Further afield the Occasions Card Shop in Fareham Shopping Centre are holding a Frozen Extravaganza on Saturday where they will have exclusive Frozen stock unavailable anywhere else, specially flown in for this event.

A Christmas Market is being held at the Downland and Weald Museum with reduced entrance fees, 130 stands selling arts, crafts, food and unusual gifts and most importantly, roasted chestnuts.

Finally, what better way to get into the mood than to take in the ultra Christmassy family orientated ballet, The Nutcracker,  at the Kings Theatre on Sunday night at 7.30 pm.

If you’d like more details on any of the above simply click on the highlighted words which will take you to the site for further information.  There are lots of Christmas Events on the Mumsnet Portsmouth site and if you want to look further afield have a look at the Mumsnet Hampshire or Mumsnet Southampton sites for inspiration. New events are being added all the time.


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Expert Tips: Capturing Those “Perfect” Moments

Local Editor:

Some great tips on family photography – and here’s mine – get lots of props for some lovely moments with your children trying on oversized hats, glasses etc.

Originally posted on London-on-Toast:

We recently met local photographer Claudine Yap. As a new mum to a two-month old son, she’s making a transition in her photography career from event photography to children and family portrait photography, offering on-location shots or studio shots.


Based in Buckhurst Hill, she shoots in her bespoke studio or on location for your family.

She specialises in recording the feelings of family life: joy, wonder, happiness, quiet contemplation, and great good humour. Shooting newborns, babies, children and family, she aspires to create a fun and relaxed environment during her photo shoots to bring out the very best in people.

We asked her to give her suggestions for taking our own family photos. We thought this might come in handy as the Christmas season approaches.

  1. I always advise my clients to put plain, bright-coloured clothes on their children, especially if the pictures are taken outdoors, because patterned clothing can sometimes…

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Consumer Rights – #ChristmasShopping


Biscoes Logo

With Christmas just around the corner, here is everything you need to know about your rights when making those special purchases.

We’ve all been there. You purchase that dress you love but when you get it home it (a) doesn’t fit; (b) looks awful; or (c) for no reason at all you decide that you hate it completely.  You therefore take the item back to the shop to ask for a refund only to be told that you cannot have one.

Your rights as a consumer are governed by the Sale of Goods Act 1979 where you purchase ‘goods’ (for example a dress or T-shirt) or the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, where you are provided with a ‘service’ (e.g. eating out at a restaurant or a mobile phone contract).  Many people know little about their rights arising from these Acts.

It is worth bearing in mind that these Acts only apply to consumers and therefore do not apply if you are buying something in the course of a business.

‘Goods’ that you purchase must fit the description given when they were sold to you, must be fit for the purpose for which they were sold and must be of satisfactory quality.  Satisfactory quality will be determined based upon the standard that a reasonable person would believe to be satisfactory, taking into account all of the circumstances, for example the price of the item.

Common pitfalls:

1. Buying the wrong version

If you purchase the wrong version of something, for example a fridge which does not fit in your kitchen, this in itself does not make the item faulty.  However, if you had asked a shop worker for the measurements of the fridge, and these had been incorrectly given to you causing you to purchase the wrong size, this means that the goods are not fit for the purpose for which they were sold to you and you can ask for your money back.

2. Second Hand Goods

Buying second hand goods from a private seller means that your rights are nowhere near as strong as buying from a shop, unless of course the seller explicitly misleads you in order to encourage you to purchase their item.

3. Unsuitability

If you purchase an item and later decide that it is unsuitable, unless it is faulty, the shop is under no obligation to take your goods back and provide a refund.  That said, even though they are not obliged to provide a refund, plenty of shops still do, and it may be worth making an enquiry anyway.  Many high street stores have returns policies allowing you to return an item within a set timeframe.  But keep in mind, these are goodwill policies and cannot be expected as a right.

4. Credit Notes

If you are returning an item which is not faulty and the policy of the particular shop is to provide a credit note, then you will have to accept this.  Remember, they are under no legal oblication to exchange non-faulty items. If you are provided with a credit note, ensure that you read the terms for using it and keep in mind the timeframe in which you have to spend it.

5. Sold as Seen

You will not be entitled to a refund where a fault was pointed out prior to the purchase.

6. Advertised Prices

Many people believe that if goods are mispriced whilst being advertised (including on the shelf), the shop is obliged to sell the goods at that price.  This is a myth and the shop is not obliged to do so.  However, if it is the case that the shop has intentionally misled you, or if you complain and the shop puts the goods back on the shelf at the same price without amendment, this is a potential criminal offence.

So always remember, if the goods are faulty, the law will govern your rights over and above the returns policy.

If the goods are not faulty you will have to smile sweetly and act in accordance with the particular shop’s returns policy.

On a final note, it is worth remembering that during the Christmas period many shops extend the timeframe in which you have to return an item so keep an eye out for this at the time of purchase.

This is a guest blog post written by Biscoes Solicitors, with offices in Portsmouth, Waterlooville, Wickham, Petersfield, Portchester and Gosport.



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#HolidaysAreComing – and so is the Coca-Cola Truck

coca cola truckWe’ve already seen the John Lewis Ad and so we know Christmas is well and truly on its way, but for some, it’s just not Christmas until the first sighting of the Coca-Cola Christmas advert, which is due this year to debut on Saturday 8th November during the break on X Factor.  The new-look ad opens with a scene featuring the iconic Coca-Cola Father Christmas and a number of different acts of kindness through various experiences with friends, families and amongst strangers set to the heart-warming ‘Make Someone Happy’ soundtrack by Jimmy Durante.

Coca-Cola are continuing with the Christmas Truck Tour, which this year, will stop at Asda Havant in Bedhampton on the 19th December 2014 between 1 pm and 9 pm.  On each stop, people have the chance to take pictures with the truck as it lights up (just like the advert), whilst enjoying a snowy winter wonderland setting and a refreshing Coca-Cola or Diet Coke as a choir sings Christmas hits.

You can also send a digital greetings card with Coca-Cola this year, taking the form of a personalised video message to family and friends. Just visit the Make a Wish page, to create and send a Christmas Wish to a loved one by truck, elf, bottle or magic.  And if you are so minded, you can also buy a limited edition glass  ‘Ribbon’ bottle with a label that transforms into a bow.  Share a coke with… 500ml bottles will also be available featuring the names of our favourite reindeers, including Rudolph (yes I know, not one of the eight), Dancer and Blitzen.

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Portsmouth RNLI Santa 5K and 10K



The Believe and Achieve Santa Fun Run takes place this year on the 14th December 2014, allowing anyone and everyone to dress up like Santa and raise money for a great cause, the RNLI.

Two races are available, the 5K fun run/walk and the 10K (much less fun) run. To sign up go to the Believe and Achieve Personal Consultancy website, or you can sign up in person at Velocity Bikes in Cosham, Alexandra Sports in Hilsea or Absolute Running in Gosport.

Child and adult santa suits are included in the registration fee and if you’ve a little one why not run with them in the buggy? Here’s a picture of my daughter from when I ran it a couple of years ago.  Excellent effort at a sleigh if I do say so myself. :) I think I might go and sign up again actually…


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Review: Muchachos Singing Spanish and C’est Chouette Singing French

muchachos 2I was recently invited to a taster session with Muchachos Singing Spanish.  Set up by Debbie Garrick in 2010, she also runs C’est Chouette Singing French sessions throughout Portsmouth and at various other venues throughout Hampshire.  Having worked in a pre-school in Norway teaching French and English as a foreign language, she saw first hand how keen people abroad were to get their 2 and 3 year olds learning languages.  On moving back to the UK as a single parent, she wanted to find something to do that fitted around her children and she started researching language development.

What she found was that there were a whole host of benefits to teaching your child a second language from an early age.  In particular it can improve problem solving skills, increase language understanding as a whole and help retention of information.  Children respond well to music and remembering songs, and Deborah started developing themes, starting with body parts, and moving on to transport, actions, food and animals.

A member of the Chartered Institute for Linguists, Deborah attends the Language Show and seminars every year and keeps up to date with language policy and developments in the national curriculum.

The session starts with introductions, and I sat with my son (nearly 2) in a circle whilst we introduced ourselves, the older children giving their own names, and the younger having their parents introduce themselves.  All conversation takes place in spanish, and given I have never learned Spanish I was a little apprehensive about being able to follow and help my son.  I needn’t have worried.  The repetitive nature of the introductions meant that I very soon picked up what was being said, and the children all clearly knew what to expect and answered accordingly.

MuchachosThe structure of the session is fixed around games and songs,  using a variety of brightly coloured props.  The words for the songs are displayed as you sing so that you can pick up the words yourself and help your child, and the children seemed to have far less trouble than I did with the words – lovely Spanish versions of well known tunes and songs including Incy Wincy Spider amongst others. We played several inventive games including the sock game, where two colours of sock (in this case pink and purple) are handed out to each child, one for each hand, and instructions given to touch various body parts with a specific colour – which proved to be a very effective way of learning the colours and the body parts. Various other games were played which taught other colours and animal names.

The sessions are 45 minutes long which seemed to be just about right – enough time to get plenty of games and songs in, but just short enough that the children were kept interested throughout. My son is only just picking up English words and phrases now, but I was pleasantly surprised that he was picking up the odd Spanish word and repeating it appropriately, and much more importantly, he was having a lot of fun. I can see that with continued attendance he would certainly start to pick it up, even at 2.

Muchachos 2It’s a new term this week but people can start at any time,  and Muchachos and C’est Chouette both offer a free taster session and then it’s a termly booking (or whatever the remainder of the term is). Classes are for children from babies (Baby Spanish) to older pre-schoolers up to the age of 5. Deborah tells me that most children take around 3 weeks for it to all click.  If you’d like to book a taster session then you can do so via the website or email or call 07796144388. Portsmouth venues include the Drayton Centre on Wednesdays (Spanish and French) and Thursdays (Spanish, including Baby Spanish) at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Fawcett Road, Southsea.  You can also access classes in Chichester, Hedge End and Petersfield. Classes cost just £30 per 6 week term for pre-schoolers and £24 for baby Spanish.


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